Kashmir Dispute: no end in sight
The Kashmir dispute represents an unresolved issue affecting not only the direct interested countries but also the regional security. A solution is still far from being obtained and escaped any tentative of a peaceful settlement. India, Pakistan, China and the people of Kashmir are still locked in a status quo not acceptable for any of them, and for over 60 years debates are focusing on the alternatives.
The Kashmir region is disputed between the following countries: Union of India, Pakistan Republic, and People’s Republic of China. We cannot also forget the Kashmiris themselves, too often side lined in the struggle between these giants and forgotten as the key to any solution in the area.
The Kashmir region has acquired over the decades more importance, and with this the danger due the fact that skirmished along the border have led to three conflict between Pakistan and India and one between China and India. In the last 15 years, in addition to this, Pakistan and India became nuclear powers which, if on a side pose great risks in case of war between the two on the other has once gain confirmed the harsh rule of the equilibrium of terror.
An analysis of Kashmir in an objective and fair manner will need to asses history, claims and positions of the parties involved; any solution can only be suggested if a point will be focal in this achievement: Kashmiris cannot be left at window anymore. Intra states solution as we will see have led to wars and conflicts that did not change even of millimetre the borders and status quo.
Origin, partition and war
The Kashmir region was an early centre for Sanskrit scholar and largely influenced by Buddhism. The first rulers are thought to be the Kambojas; the Mauryan emperor Ashoka is often credited with having founded the city of Srinagar.
The first Islamic ruler was Shah Mir, founder of the Swati dynasty, a Pashtun from Swat region, (Pakhtunkhwa province of present day Pakistan).
The Muslim rule over Kashmir will last for over four centuries and some of these rulers were tolerant of all religions, following a traditional peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Hindus.
In 1819, the Kashmir valley passed from the control of the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan, to the conquering Sikh armies of Ranjit Singh of Lahore. The Sikhs captured also the lands of Ladakh and Baltistan to the east and north-east of Jammu.
The Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu was the result of the amalgamation of different regions, religions, and ethnicities. In the east, Ladakh was ethnically and culturally Tibetan and its inhabitants practised Buddhism; in the south, Jammu had a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs; in central Kashmir Valley, the population was overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with a small Hindu minority, Kashmiri brahmins or pandits; in the northeast, Baltistan had a population related to Ladakh, but which practised Shi’a Islam; in the north, Gilgit, was an area of Shi’a groups; and, in the west, Punch was Muslim, but of different ethnicity than the Kashmir valley. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, in which Kashmir sided with the British, and the subsequent assumption of direct rule by Great Britain, the princely state of Kashmir came under the paramount of the British Crown.
In the British census of India of 1941, Kashmir registered a Muslim majority population of 77%, a Hindu population of 20% and a sparse population of Buddhists and Sikhs comprising the remaining 3%.
In 1947, the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan where created after the end of British rule and according to the Indian Independence Act 1947, “the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States lapses, and with it, all treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian States”. The states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to stay independent. Jammu and Kashmir, had a predominantly Muslim population, and Pakistan expected to annex Kashmir.
The Maharaja Hari Singh, however, waited and frustrated Pakistani desires, who started to be concerned on a possible change of direction. This was the base for the first Kashmir war.
In October 1947, Pakistani militants and Muslim revolutionaries decided to take action following rumours that the Maharaja had a covert plan to annex Kashmir to India. An invasion started from Pakistani tribes in Dir, supported by local Muslims, whilst the Maharaja was forced to abandon Srinagar and seek Indian assistance. However, India and Pakistan had signed an agreement of non-intervention. This is where the dispute starts: whilst Pakistan accuses India of blackmailing the Maharaja and use the request of assistance for obtaining the accession; India accuses Pakistan of forcing the war and violate the agreement.
Unable to oppose the invasion, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on 25 October 1947 and accepted by the government of India on 27 October 1947. The agreement which ceded Jammu and Kashmir to India was signed by the Maharaja and Lord Mountbatten of Burma.
In Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference volunteers along Indian Army started to fight against the Pakistanis. This war, known as the First Kashmir War, lasted until 1948, when India asked for the conflict to be discussed at the UN Security Council. The UN set up the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNCIP), and the UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on 21 April 1948. The resolution stated: an immediate cease-fire; called the Government of Pakistan to withdraw from the state of Jammu and Kashmir all tribesmen, Pakistani nationals and fighters who entered the state with the purpose of fighting against India; Government of India to reduce its forces to the minimum strength; ensure the circumstances are met for holding a plebiscite which ask the single question of Accession of the state to India or Pakistan.
Indian and Pakistani governments agreed to hold the plebiscite, but both countries were soon in violation of the resolution: whilst Pakistan did not withdraw its troops from Kashmir, thus violating the conditions for holding the plebiscite, the Indian Government did not make serious efforts to hold one in its areas.
Over the next several years, the UN Security Council passed four new resolutions, with an introduction of a clause requesting simultaneous withdrawal of both Indian and Pakistani troops from the region and putting forward 11 different proposals for the demilitarization of the region. All of these were accepted by Pakistan, but rejected by the Indian government. It must be noted that in spite of the evident violations committed by both countries, the UN could not enforce its resolutions as they were passed by the UNSC under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter and that have non-binding character. These resolutions do not provide measure of enforcement, like a military intervention; this could have only happened if resolutions were passed under Chapter VII.
In 1962, another war erupted in the area, this time involving troops from the People’s Republic of China and India clashing in territory claimed by both. China prevailed at end and annexed the region called Aksai Chin, which has continued since then. The line that separates India from China in this region is known as the “Line of Actual Control”.
In 1965 and 1971, India and Pakistan clashed again in an all-out war that resulted in a defeat for Pakistan. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Pakistani military surrendered in East Pakistan leading way for the establishment of Bangladesh. More importantly for Kashmir, in 1972 a new agreement signed by India and Pakistan, the Simla Agreement, agreed to settle all issues by peaceful means using the UN resolutions as blueprint.
However, by end of the eighties the situation deteriorated again in Kashmir, paving way for a new source of tension and conflict, this time arising from insurgencies. In 1987, after the challenge of a disputed election the first movement was founded, composed by Mujahedeen insurgents, and which continues to this day. Many believe that these groups receive support from Pakistan and whose origins are linked to Afghanistan following the end of the soviet occupation. Another powerful movement was founded by Yasin Malik, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, along with Ashfaq Majid Wani and Farooq Ahmad Dar (alias Bitta Karatay). Since 1995, Malik has renounced the use of violence and different views with the senior leader, Farooq Siddiqui (alias Farooq Papa), resulted in a spilt in which Bitta Karatay, Salim Nanhaji, and other senior comrades joined Farooq Papa.
India accuses Pakistan of supplying these groups with arms and strengthening the Islamist organisations; Pakistan claims these insurgents are Jammu and Kashmir citizens, and are rising up against the Indian army in an independence movement. Pakistan denies that it has or currently is supplying weapons and ammunition to the insurgents.
In mid-1999, there was the last heavy and direct confrontation between India and Pakistan. Insurgents and Pakistani soldiers from Pakistani Kashmir infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir and took control of areas along the Line of Control that due to altitude and winter weather, India vacate. This resulted in a high-scale conflict between the Indian and the Pakistan Army.
Fears of the Kargil War turning into a nuclear war provoked the then United States President Bill Clinton to pressure Pakistan to retreat. Faced with losses of personnel and posts, the Pakistan Army withdrew from the area, ending the conflict. India reclaimed control of the peaks, which they now patrol and monitor all year long.
Kashmir Dispute Analysis
Below is a table showing the ethnic/religious composition of Kashmir:
|Administered by||Area||Population||% Muslim||% Hindu||% Buddhist||% Other|
|India||Kashmir valley||~4 million||95%||4%||–||–|
|Ladakh||~0.25 million||46% (Shia)||–||50%||3%|
|Pakistan||Northern Areas||~1 million||99%||–||–||–|
|Azad Kashmir||~2.6 million||100%||–||–||–|
To the above data we need to add that in Pakistan administered Kashmir, there are around 1.5 million refugees from Indian-administered Kashmir; at least 506,000 people in Indian administered Kashmir are displaced due to insurgents activities, mostly are Hindu Pandits; that although Hindu are majority in Jammu, some districts such Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar, and Doda have a Muslim majority; that Shia Muslims make up the majority in Kargil district in Ladakh region.
The position of the Indian Governments can be summarized as follow:
- The Instrument of Accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India, signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on 25 October 1947 was a legal act, completely valid under terms of the Government of India Act (1935), Indian Independence Act (1947) and international law.
- This act was final and irrevocable.
- There is no evidence of any deceit practiced by India on Kashmir.
- The Constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had unanimously ratified the Maharaja’s Instrument of Accession to India and had adopted a constitution for the state that called for a perpetual merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India.
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 urges the need to resolve the dispute through mutual dialogue and does not call for a plebiscite.
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 cannot be implemented since Pakistan failed to withdraw its forces from Kashmir.
- UNSC Resolution 47 is obsolete, since the geography, demographics and political status of the region have been permanently altered.
- India rejects Pakistan’s two-nation theory and considers that Kashmir, despite being a Muslim-majority state, is in many ways an integral part of secular India.
- The state of Jammu and Kashmir was provided significant autonomy in Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
- All differences between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir, need to be settled through bilateral negotiations as agreed to by the two countries when they signed the Simla Agreement on 2 July 1972.
Based on the above, the Indian analysis concentrates on the following aspects: position on Kashmir solutions, threats, strenghts, possible scenarios and consequences.
India rejects independence, whole or part of Kashmir, mostly for internal reasons as this could undermine the stability of the Indian Union by strengthening other secessionist groups or states. Independence could also increase pressures from Indian nationalist groups opposed to any negotiations or territorial amputations of India, thus weakening the central government.
The Union of India is affected by a centripetal force, generated by three threats: internal, Kashmiri and external. This force could pull apart the Union if left uncontrolled and unchallenged. Internally, India struggle to contain requests from nationalists and separatists movements, which represent the main obstacle for the central government on any Kashmir solution. Independence of Kashmir could re-ignite secessionist aspirations; in the same way keeping the status quo, will expose India to dangerous activities by secessionists and insurgents in Kashmir, many of which have strong Islamists influences.
In Kashmir, India face a growing religious character replacing the secular struggle by Kashmiris. Groups with strong affiliations with Pakistan or with strong and radical views of Islam are increasing their role.
Externally the main threat is not only Pakistan but especially China. Although the Kashmir dispute sees Pakistan as the main contender, India knows this could trigger major developments on a regional scenario, where China is clearly hostile to any solution which will benefit India.
Although India is facing the above threats, has also in recent years assisted to a rapid economic development, and a strengthening of its military forces that ultimately are not only putting the country in an advantage with Pakistan but also are aiming at filling the gap against China. India has especially improved its position on the international scenario. During the Cold War, India was isolated in the contest against China and Pakistan, due mainly to the preferential support of the USA to Islamabad and Beijing. At the time the US saw both countries in an anti-Soviet function, with China able to disrupt Soviet actions in areas such South East Asia and Africa and Pakistan as a base of support for Mujaheddin fighting the Red Army in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union, on its part, used to appease India but avoiding a direct involvement due to the Indian neutralist position. Since the end of the Cold War, and especially after 2001, two elements changed India’s position: US-Pakistan relations and new perceptions on China’s threat. The US after 9/11, linked themselves to their traditional ally Pakistan in the war of terror, and President Musharraf was seen as a valuable support in the struggle against Al Qaida and the Taliban. Over the years, and especially with the Obama administration, it appeared clear that the Pakistani position was, to say the least, vague and suspicious. The assassination of Bin Laden was the lowest point and somehow the demonstration of American suspects. Since then the relations are clearly severed and a distance is now visible between the two countries. China, with its staggering economic growth and military progress, has become now for the US the main threat to security and US interests and lead Obama to unveil a new strategy pointing East aimed at contain China’s aggressive stance. The US, along a traditional military flexing of muscle, also unveiled a surprising change of direction in its relations with old enemies, now seen instead as valuable support in cordoning off China. Examples are the new cordial relations with Vietnam and India. Although India is still under the threats mentioned further above, its position is clearly improving on a diplomatic level and an eventual dispute on Kashmir could pay off for New Delhi by obtaining this time a more decisive and strong support from the US.
How India could be affected by possible scenarios in Kashmir?
Independence of whole Kashmir (India and Pakistan administered territories): Could undermine stability of
Union by strengthening separatists and secessionists movements; Kashmir will be institutional weak and probably under strong influence of the Muslim majority; increased risks of revenge or ethnic clashes against the Hindu minority; Pakistan will exert a strong influence; could be a harbor of Islamist and terrorist organizations with the aim of attack India.
Partition based on current situation: Pakistan will obtain its administered areas and India its current ones, except the Kashmir valley which will oppose to accede to India. Could resolve potentially some of the issues, but will still leave open the problem of the Muslim majority in the Kashmir Valley which will oppose Indian authority. The current partition is therefore impractical.
Accession to India: Very unlikely that India will retain its current composition, as Kashmiris in the Valley will opt either for independence or accession to Pakistan.
Accession to Pakistan: Pakistan could obtain along its territories also the Kashmir Valley. This however does not diminish risks, as human rights violation, autonomy requests, presence of Islamist or nationalist groups could create instability and wage war against India.
Independence of the Muslim Kashmir territories: Could be a solution but Pakistani influence would be great and India will suffer from the risk of Islamist infiltrations.
- Rejection of the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistan insists that the Maharaja was not a popular leader, and was regarded as a tyrant by most Kashmiris.
- Since Maharaja Singh had fled Kashmir, following Pakistani invasion, Pakistan asserts that the Maharaja held no authority in determining Kashmir’s future.
- Pakistan argues that even if the Maharaja had any authority in determining the future of Kashmir, he signed the Instrument of Accession under pressure, thus invalidating the legitimacy of his actions.
- Pakistan claims that Indian forces were in Kashmir before the Instrument of Accession was signed, and that therefore Indian troops were in violation of the Standstill Agreement, which was designed to maintain the status quo in Kashmir (although India was not signatory to the Agreement, which was signed between Pakistan and the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir).
- The popular Kashmiri insurgency demonstrates that the Kashmiri people no longer wish to remain within India. Pakistan suggests that this means that Kashmir either wants to be with Pakistan or independent.
- According to the two-nation theory, which is one of the theories that is cited for the partition that created India and Pakistan, Kashmir should have been with Pakistan, because it has a Muslim majority.
- India has shown disregard to the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the United Nations Commission in India and Pakistan by failing to hold a plebiscite to determine the future allegiance of the state.
- The Chenab formula was a compromise proposed in the 1960s, in which the Kashmir valley and other Muslim-dominated areas north of the Chenab river would go to Pakistan, and Jammu and other Hindu-dominated regions would go to India.
As seen on India, which the position of Pakistan, its strengths and possible scenarios?
The Pakistani position on Kashmir, although sometimes allude to independence, in reality opposes it. Nevertheless this rejection is not total and would be seen as the less evil instead of a pro Indian plebiscite. Mainly Pakistan rejects independence under the two state theory and dreams of a great Pakistan.
Pakistan main weakness is internal rather than external; the government in Islamabad appears unable to control its borders and especially the activities of secret services and the Army. This has become evident since Musharraf retirement. The Taliban presence, inability to counter insurgencies not only in Kashmir but also in Afghanistan, have led many to suspect that two levels of powers are present in Pakistan. Especially after the assassination of Bin Laden, and even after the attacks in Mumbai, many believe that the secret services are behind a strategy that is in sharp conflict with that of their main traditional ally, the US. The government appear to lose everyday its legitimization at the eye of the Pakistanis for not taking strong position against for example drone raids by the US or the use of national territory for US special operation without consent from Islamabad. The government appears on the verge of a military coup, seen as the only way to keep the country united and assure control over the nuclear arsenal.
Directly proportional to India’s growing position on the international scenario, is proportional decline of Pakistan. Its strained relationship with the US is the main factor undermining Islamabad positions. China has maintained its favorable support to Pakistan both on diplomatic and military level, but losing the USA to India is a major blow and the end of an era for Pakistan foreign policy.
How Pakistan could be affected by possible scenarios in Kashmir?
Independence of whole Kashmir (India and Pakistan administered territories): Would not be welcomed by Islamabad due to Hindu minority and risks of conflicts. Nevertheless, Muslim majority will probably have to look to Islamabad for assistance.
Partition based on current situation: Could not satisfy Pakistan due to Kashmir valley under Indian control.
Accession to India: Very unlikely that Kashmir Valley will stay with India as well as Kashmir under Pakistani administration will vote in favor.
Accession to Pakistan: Accession to Pakistan would be welcome if only the Muslim inhabited areas will join.
Independence of the Muslim Kashmir territories: Could be a solution but Pakistani influence would be great and India will probably have a hostile stance towards the new state, obliging Pakistan to intervene for defence.
- China did not accept the boundaries of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu, north of the Aksai Chin and the Karakoram that were proposed by the British.
- Chinasettled its border disputes with Pakistan in the Trans Karakoram Tract in 1963 with the provision that the settlement was subject to the final solution of the Kashmir dispute.
China rejects independence for the same principles stated by India, fearing secessionist groups or renaissance of old questions such Tibet or Xinjiang. China does not consider its territory part of the current dispute between India and Pakistan.
China feels to be in a stronger position, especially under a military point of view and where the gap with the Indian army is still wide although now starting to match in competition. Nevertheless, Beijing is aware that on the international scenario its position is now changing and challenging openly India could not be as easy as it was in the past due to US interest in New Delhi partnership. This will explain as why China will always appease any solution favorable to Pakistan, and any solution on Kashmir that does not affect China borders, not exert influence in the Tibetan area, does not strength Islamic movements in Xinjiang. China will basically accept any solution that in reality does not solve and dissipate completely the tensions between Pakistan and India, under a principle of weakening the adversary by keeping it “busy” in struggle elsewhere.
Kashmiris point of view has been neglected long enough and most of the inability in finding a solution is the stubbornness of India and Pakistan to treat the question as a purely internal and national matter. A plebiscite, as recommended by UN, never took place; instead local elections have been used sometimes by either countries to demonstrate willingness of the population to maintain the status quo. Along the tensions and wars fought by India, Pakistan and China, Kashmir has been the theatre of an intense insurgent action during the nineties and a series of uprising during the last ten years.
The general perception by Kashmiris is far from being considered as accepting the status quo; the Freedom in the World 2006 report categorized Indian-administered Kashmir as “partly free”, and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as well as the country of Pakistan, as “not free”. India claims that a large proportion of the Jammu and Kashmir population wishes to remain with India. However, this proportion is higher in Ladakh and Jammu, whilst in the Muslim dominate Kashmir Valley only 9% said that they would be better off with India. According to a 2007 poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi, 87% of respondents in the Kashmir Valley prefer independence over union with India or Pakistan. However, a survey by the Chatham House in both Indian and Pakistani administered Kashmir found that support of independence was only at 43% and 44% respectively. The above gives a clear idea of the complexity of the current situation and how India and Pakistan have distanced themselves from reality. It has to be said, honestly, that improvements have been made by both countries following international mediation: India and Pakistan began to withdraw troops from the international border on 10 June 2002; effective on 26 November 2003, India and Pakistan agreed to maintain a ceasefire along the Line of Control, and the Siachen glacier, the first “total ceasefire” declared by both powers in nearly 15 years. In February 2004, Pakistan increased pressure on Pakistanis fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir to adhere to the ceasefire.
Indian administered Kashmir
Claims of human rights abuses have been made against the Indian Armed Forces and the armed insurgents operating in Jammu and Kashmir. Since 1989, over 50,000 Kashmiris (by some reports nearly 100,000) have died during the conflict. Some human rights organizations have alleged that Indian Security forces have killed hundreds of Kashmiris by indiscriminate use of force and torture, firing on demonstrations, custodial killings, encounters and detentions. The government of India denied that torture was widespread, but it admitted that some custodial crimes may have taken place. According to one human rights report in Kashmir there were more than three hundred cases of “disappearances” since 1990. Another accusation states that the Islamic terrorists, infiltrated the region in 1989, began an ethnic cleansing campaign to convert Kashmir to a pure Muslim state. According to the same report, since then nearly 400,000 Pandits were either murdered or forced to leave their homes.
Pakistan administered Kashmir
Claim of religious discrimination and restricting religious freedom in Azad Kashmir have been made against Pakistan. It is also accused of systemic suppression of civil liberties and demonstrations against the government. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reported that a number of Islamist militant groups, including some affiliated to al-Qaeda, operate from bases in Pakistani-administered Kashmir with the tacit permission of Pakistani intelligence. According to Shaukat Ali, chairman of the International Kashmir Alliance, “On one hand Pakistan claims to be the champion of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but has denied the same rights in its controlled parts of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan”. As seen above, both India and Pakistan are accused of serious human rights abuses that ultimately still encourage part of the population to prefer the independence rather than an accession.
Independence of Kashmir: Could only work if a larger state will be formed and ethnic/religious tolerance and freedom is assured. A Kashmir independent will be Muslim overall, and if Jammu and Ladakh will join, there are fears of possible clashes and revenges on either side. It is therefore very unlikely that Jammu and Ladakh will abandon India, and a plebiscite will surely confirm the status quo. However, the Kashmir Valley represents the real question mark. If in the Pakistani administered territory the independence receive less than 50% of support, in Kashmir valley could reach higher marks. This means that whilst the rest of Kashmir will join Pakistan, only the valley will stay out. But what real independence this state will have? It could only work if a stable and larger Kashmir would be declared by the joining of the Azad Kashmir. If alone, the Valley will probably succumb under the double threat of Pakistani interference on one side and internal Islamist organization pushing for a war against India on the other. In this case scenario, Pakistan therefore should ensure control of the border and disband militias; as well India ensuring that the army will control its borders and not exceed its authority. Both countries will have to help the new state in building stable institutions and security; a Kashmir independent should be neutralist and it must be legitimized by a plebiscite from resident Kashmiris only, under UN supervision.
Partition: A partition on actual basis but with the Kashmir valley joining Pakistan could work if Pakistan and India assure the demilitarization of the border. It will offer the advantage of both countries to face each other directly and thus negotiations will be easier; both countries will have to deal with human rights abuses enquiries and ensure autonomy will be granted to regions still different from the rest of their national structure. The last task it could be prove more difficult for Pakistan rather than India as the latter has already a variegated and multiethnic composition. Pakistan must ensure the disarmament and disband of militias and Islamist groups. As for the independence solution, this can only be legitimized by an official, impartial and Kashmir only based plebiscite to be held under UN supervision.
Based on the above assumptions, we can only recognize the complexity of the dispute and the enormous task that the Indian and Pakistani diplomacy face. Nevertheless, a solution must be reach for two reasons: Kashmiris must be able to shape their future and have peace, a choice that ultimately is in their hands and their rights, and for which an effort must be made by all parties involved; if left unsolved, the Kashmir dispute could be more dangerous than thought, not only for the nuclear threat posed by both countries but especially because in a changing geopolitical system, this could generate instability reaching far greater extent, with the shockwaves pointing to Beijing rather than Islamabad. The final consequence of the last point does not need further explanations.